For Tianjin native Jeanne Sun, like many other young Chinese, it was exposure to Western culture that gave her a permanent impression about tattoos. Soon she was using her mother’s eyebrow tattoo tools and practicing on her friends. “We watched some music videos from Europe and the United States. All the band members had tattoos and we said, ‘We need a tattoo’,” said Sun, who played piano in a youth band when she was 16. The 32-year-old’s petite frame is now a collage. The artwork flows across her back, over her left shoulder, down her arm and across her leg. At age 18, she opened her hometown’s first tattoo shop and now owns Jeanne Tattoo Studio in Beijing’s Gulou district.
Her trajectory mirrors the growing popularity for body art in China and the culture and industry that surrounds it.
Wang “Kisen” Qing Yuan, the director of the China Association of Tattoo Artists, said there were 200 known tattoo artists in the country in 2002. Now he estimates there are around 2,000 tattoo parlors and 400,000 tattoo artists in China.